Can I sue ACS, Legal Aid, or the Courts for how they mishandled my custody case?
Hmm…this is a good question. The answer is, the short answer really, is you can sue whoever you want under the American judicial system. The worse that could happen is you get hit with a frivolous lawsuit petition or judgment and you will have to pay some fines and restitution.
When you start talking about suing ACS (Association for Children’s Services) and Legal Aid and the Court, my guess is that it will be an uphill battle to win such a lawsuit because each of these entities will argue that they did what they did because they thought it was in the “best interest of the child.”
Recently, one of those children in whose best interest these entities acted, brought a lawsuit against each of them saying they “ruined his life” by removing him from his parent’s home when he was 3 years old and sending him to live with his grandparents in Connecticut. The case is pending as of this writing so it is not clear how that worked out for him.
Can ACS and Legal Aid and the Courts make mistakes? Can they act overzealously in some cases? Can the wrong conclusions ever be reached in these cases? Sure. It is highly probable that a few mistakes were made over the course of many years and that some children’s “best interest” was not served at all by decisions rendered.
This stuff is not an exact science. When you are dealing with human beings, all sorts of things can happen and there can be biases and there can be bad faith and there can be innocent mistakes made. Should you sue if you are at the receiving end of this inexact science and it is your life that has been ruined by someone else’s “human” error? It really is a personal decision and it really comes down to the case and what exactly transpired and whether the professionals were negligent in how they handled the case, given the information they had before them at the time. With that said, suing the court and saying the court was negligent in how it handled your case? Not sure how likely you are to succeed with that. The court has wide discretion in these cases and is unlikely to rule, after the fact, that it was negligent in its interpretation of the child’s best interest. On the other hand, if lawyers for ACS or Legal Aid withheld or misrepresented information – which can happen – that would have led the court to a different decision in your case, and you can prove this, and your life was demonstrably ruined as a result, it is possible you could have a cause of action against the said entity and that you could win a big judgment against them.
It is tough to say, without more, whether you should sue or not. This one is case by case and even when you have a lot of evidence it will be difficult to prevail years after the fact against entities like ACS, Legal Aid, and the Family Court.
But if you decide to go ahead, note that you will have to file a “notice of claim” first and within 90 days of the negligent act usually – under New York law. Other states may have their own rule obviously, for similar agencies. My hunch is that this is not a lawsuit you can handle without a competent attorney so lawyer up if you are seriously thinking about suing. Good luck.